When we last met, I had begun a novel for development in my Master Class with James Patterson. And I have to say that, while I’ve had good writing days in the past, I cannot tell you how quickly and easily this novel is coming to me, as you can tell if you’ve kept up with my Twitter posts. (I hope that’s a good thing!). I attribute the tutelage under Mr. James Patterson for a good deal of it, but part of it has to do with just the general idea of the novel itself. It’s very different than anything I’ve written before, and it’s almost seemed to have taken on a life of its own.
And no, my friends. For those of you worried about the Vein series, I assure you that I have not forgotten about our Bearers and their convergence to the Vein. Though the series is being laid aside for a bit, I will get back to it as soon as I get this one out of my system.
As a matter of fact, let me share with you a little bit of the story. Below is the prologue. See if it whets your appetite. Let me know your thoughts about it, or anything else of mine you’ve read. If you like it, feel free to pass it on to others.
And as an update on other projects (besides the Vein), I will soon have Surrealities 4 ready for consumption on smashwords, hopefully within the next week; by the end of the month at the very latest.
So enjoy this little snippet, courtesy of excitement and imagination on my behalf. And by all means give me your feedback!
See you in the Vein (and other places for that matter)!
Jonah Barrowman screamed, but the thunder overruled him. A defiant fist led the way as he trudged forward through low tree branches and watery bullets shot from the clouds. The battle in the skies roared, as lightning exploded in the clouds like cannons, puncturing the night with brilliant flashes of illumination. Heaven was at war with Earth, and precipitation made up the ammunition of the angels.
Martha was right: he never should have left.
Pain exploded through his right shoulder again. He tried to shrug it off, but it only clung to him with more vengeance. Cold rain mingled with warm blood. Jonah imagined it as a free-flowing river that cascaded down his body, emptying into one of the many pools smothering the grassy terrain. There it would nourish the grass, blending with nature in a manner akin to the dead bodies laid to rest, rotting and decomposing in their coffins.
Rotting and decomposing. Just like the rest of his party.
Lamp-colored memories of ripped clothing exposing ripped flesh, coupled with lifeless eyes full of the memory of the last horrific thing they saw while alive, flashed through Jonah’s mind. Men and women he had known for years had now been reduced to shredded, half-devoured meat, left behind by those things, the things that everybody knew about but nobody dared to name. The things that prowled about by night and left only blood and body parts in the morning.
The things that now chased him.
As if confirming Jonah’s realization, a cry unlike anything produced by human or animal pierced the forest. The tone spoke to him of hate, of lust, of excitement at the prospect of killing another human, despite already slaughtering a dozen others only hours ago. The cry tingled his spine, sending a shudder through his soaked body. Jonah urged his legs to move on, move faster, as the idea crossed his mind that stopping and turning around would reveal to him that whatever called out for more of his blood would be right behind him.
He shook his head: No! No more dwelling on the oncoming horror! He needed to run! Run as fast as he could! Surely he wasn’t far from safety now! They hadn’t ventured too deep into the woods, had they? The edge of the woods should be nearby, and with it the reassuring, fortress-like form of sanctuary.
More cries like the first slithered between the trees. Jonah wished he still had his rifle. Instead, his mouth fired a babbled confession:
He spewed the confession while circling wide trunks. He hoped, prayed she heard him, would forgive him, would welcome him back into her arms. She would, he thought. He’d do any sort of penance, any external sign of contrition he could muster for her to absolve him.
He just had to make it back.
There! Jonah saw it through the last row of trees. Forked lightning bolts traced the silhouette of the exterior palisade, flanked on either end by the lit blockhouses, each of which glowed with faint lamplight. Like two yellow eyes, the structure stared back at him. Jonah managed a smile: despite all that had happened, he had never been more glad to see that dark behemoth of an edifice.
He picked up the pace as much as he could, but the ground didn’t want to cooperate. Downpours had changed the surface to a stubborn mud that clung to him, impeding him with as much resistance as possible. It was as if his pursuers had turned all of nature against him, casting some witch’s spell upon the land to ensnare him, imprison him until they could reach him and perform their unholy, unspeakable acts upon him.
The severed flesh in his shoulder burned, a fire in the rain. He grit his teeth, wishing that the torrential downpour would put it out. The weather granted him no such mercy.
Another inhuman cry sounded off. Jonah pressed forward with more urgency, fighting mud and weather and pain to cross the flooded plain and make it back to safety. How much further did he have to go? Was he even halfway across the field? He had to be. Even with the slogging through the transformed terrain, even with the gaping wound that recycled its agony with each step, he had to be making progress. After all, there wasn’t that much distance between the settlement and the woods, was there? No more than half a mile, right?
He mumbled a yes through soaked lips, but conviction did not accompany the answer.
His left foot came down on something solid and unyielding. Balance gave way to instability, and Jonah Barrowman fell to the earth, wounded shoulder first. He screamed as the open flesh planed a kiss on grass and soil. Through grit teeth he huffed hasty breaths, trying to expel the pain by frantic exhalations. His eyelids mashed against each other, a reflex from the pain. He wanted to open them and find himself in his warm bed, dry and safe. He begged whatever divine power might be listening to make this only a horrific nightmare, one which would soon end with a jolt and an awakening between sheets.
He opened his eyes and found himself on his back. He raised his head and glimpsed in a flash of lightning the bulbous black outline of the forest, cutting into the sky like somebody’s failed attempt at creating a horizon full of mountains.
Another flash revealed the tall, crowded columns of trees.
And among them, other things that were not trees. Other things that ran and galloped and lumbered toward him.
Jonah Barrowman rolled over and pushed himself up with all of his might. Pain be damned, he would not linger out here to confirm what he feared. With a heave and a growl, he stood and resumed his escape.
After several more steps, the ground firmed up, refusing to give way. He had found the hard, unyielding trail. His heart leaped; not much further now.
Not much longer, Martha.
The cries came again, a chorus of howls from hell, calling for his soul.
Almost there. Just keep going…
The settlement loomed ahead. The burning eyes of the towers looked down upon him with blazing life. He would make it.
But what about the consequences he would face for leaving?
That didn’t matter now. He would face whatever trial, whatever judgment they would present him. At worst, any verdict could always be appealed. Anything would be better than remaining out here and joining the others in his party by way of death. If it meant seeing Martha again, he’d take a thousand lashes for it.
He crashed into the gate, aggravating his wound. It didn’t matter; he was here now. A half-crazed laugh ascended from his throat. He slammed the fist of his uninjured side against the gate. “Open up!” he cried. “It’s Jonah Barrowman!”
The wind picked up. The thunder roared after a stuttered trio of lightning flashes. No answer from the other side. Jonah struck again, harder.
“Is there anyone there!?” he called. “Guard! Let me in! I beg you!”
Behind him, the cries of his pursuers rang out again. Closer. More confident. More ravenous.
“Please! For the love of God, let me in! Everyone else is dead! I’m all that’s left!”
He looked up through the pelting barrage of rain to the guard windows. Light seemed to brighten, then dim, as if somebody were moving a lamp around the room. Had they heard him?
Somewhere else in the darkness, things were trudging through the mud and grass with rhythmic steps. Getting closer.
“Hurry! They’re almost upon me! Don’t leave me out here like this! Please!”
The settlement looked down upon him with indifferent silence.
“Please! O-okay! I’m sorry! I was wrong in venturing out! I admit it! I’ll take whatever punishment you give! Just don’t leave me out here to die!”
The gate did not care. Nor did the glowing blockhouse.
“Martha! Martha! Are you there?!”
Rain answered. Lightning answered. Thunder answered.
Martha did not.
“Don’t let me die!” Jonah shrieked.
Something splashed behind him. Jonah shut his eyes as his forehead rested upon wood. Sobs choked his throat. He didn’t want to turn, didn’t want to look. Maybe they’re not really there, he reasoned. Maybe if I don’t look they won’t be there.
He looked up again to the blockhouse above him. Through tears and rain, he saw a light, rolling and dancing, held aloft by a head and shoulders, visible in the window. He was saved!
Jonah Barrowman’s mouth formed into a relieved smile. “Oh thank G–”
A claw-filled blow to his neck ended his gratitude.